No, this is not some sort of weird mid-western winter greeting — although having grown up in the mid-west, I think it’s not a bad, I kind of like it.
Top of the Mitten is one of the AVA’s of Michigan state – yes we are talking wine here, not football. Are you surprised to learn that Michigan produces wine? If so, you’ll be even more shocked to learn that all 50 states do! But I digress, because I want to talk specifically about Michigan.
There are total of five AVA’s in Michigan to date. And while there are some cold climate hybrids as part of the mix, there are also noble grape varieties, resulting in some outstanding wines.
I recently had the opportunity to become familiar with the Michigan wine industry and the wines they are producing through a collaboration with Wine Studio and the Michigan Wine Collaborative. Most surprising to me was the economic impact of the Michigan wine industry – $5.4 billion! Read the Drinks Business article here.
If people are shocked to know that Michigan produces fine wine, they are probably also surprised to know that Lake Michigan offers gorgeous beaches and crystal clear waters – too bad it’s only beach weather three months out of the year. But you know what you can do the rest of the year? Enjoy the snow on an incredible landscape while you drink some fabulous wine. And apparently snowshoeing and wine is a thing!
I tasted through the following wines over the month of February as part of an educational series on Michigan wines produced by Wine Studio. All of these wines were provided to me as samples.
Amoritas Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay (Leelanau Peninsula AVA)
The grapes come from a 2 acre vineyard planted in 2013, these grapes were harvested on 9/22/2016 and bottled in February of 2017. This is the first vintage produced of this lovely Chardonnay. Stainless steel fermentation to dryness.
Notes of pear, lemon and light minerality, the wine is crisp but full bodied and smooth – I detected a creaminess that created a well balanced fusion of flavors and texture. It had a long finish with notes of candied lemon peel. Retails for $21.
St. Julian Winery (Lake Michigan Shore AVA)
St. Julian is Michigan’s oldest winery, with nearly 100 years of wine production. The founder Marianoo Meconi was a Canadian immigrant from Italy who moved his operation to Michigan in 1934. It has remained a family operation with the third generation now at the helm. St. Julian produces a vast array of wines, it is of note that they have produced a Kosher wine from the very first vintage and continue to do so today. They also are a distillery! The wines I sampled from St. Julian were:
Braganini Reserve 2017 Gruner Veltliner
This single varietal Gruner Veltliner, was made from grapes picked at 2 separate times – an earlier picking to exemplify grassy notes and a later picking for the tropical flavors. Both batches are stainless steel fermented with no malolactic fermentation.
Notes of lemongrass with pear and tropical flavors. Bright acidity, and despite being completely dry, has a hint of sweetness on the finish along with a hint of white pepper – super interesting. Retails for $19.99
Braganini Reserve 2017 Reisling
Michigan excels at Reisling so if you’ve heard of wine from Michigan there is a good chance it might have been Reisling. These grapes are sourced from a single vineyards and are whole cluster pressed followed by a cold fermentation to extend the process. The wine is meant to represent the winery’s passion to continue experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished in Michigan wine making.
This wine was super aromatic – as a Reisling usually is – apple and petrol were immediately identifiable. On the palate this one has wonderful tropical flavors balanced with bright acidity. It is off-dry and delivered a lightly sweet finish. Retails for $19.99.
Fenn Valley Vineyards (Lake Michigan Shore AVA) 2017 Pinot Grigio
This wine is a gorgeous representation of Pinot Grigio. It is a little fuller bodied that most Pinot Grigio’s I’ve had and I like that. It has notes of stone fruit, citrus and tropical notes. Great acidity but incredibly well balanced. This is the kind of wine that while great with food, is also a wonderful stand alone option when you just want to sip on something delicious.
Chateau Chantal (Old Mission Penninsula AVA) 30 Year Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay
Chateau Chantal offers a beautiful B&B so you can stay and enjoy the vineyards, winery and amazing views. They offer wine dinners, cooking classes and even a wine boot camp. Everyone loves the story behind the wine and this one is as special as it gets. The founders, Robert and Nadine were both members of the clergy in their previous lives. Robert was a Priest and Nadine was a Sister. Talk about a career change!
This Chardonnay blew my socks off. It is a big, voluptuous Chardonnay with incredible fruit flavors but with great acidity so that it is well balanced. I detected a toasted nutty note on this wine that made it incredibly interesting. This is malolactic fermentation done perfectly. Truly a special wine. As the name implies, the grapes are from a vineyard planted in 1986.
I often am met with surprise when I speak of Georgia produced wine – especially since the Republic of Georgia has become a hot region for wine – but no, I mean right here in the deep south. All 50 of the states produce wine, so there is a whole world out there to explore that probably hasn’t crossed most people’s minds. Michigan has certainly earned a spot in my heart.